tv [untitled] April 30, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EDT
previous eight, putting al qaeda on a path to defeat. at the same time, the president has shut down secret prisons overseas, banned torture, and in doing so demonstrated that we don't have to choose between protecting our country and living our values. and as a consequence of those decisions enhanced the power of our own soldiers abroad and enhance our own power arnold the world. we have a new defense strategy supported by the entire defense department's senior leadership. our military will be more agile, flexible, better able to confront aggressors and project power with strong partnerships to share the burden and smart investments in cutting-edge capabilities. we've proposed a budget that will fund this strategy and keep faith with our wounded warriors,
our veterans and their familief. we led the fight to free libya and the libyan people from gadhafi using our unique military assets to clear the way for our allies, who stepped up, stepped up to meet their own responsibility. and the result was something that the general and others before him sought time and time again but rarely achieved -- genuine burden sharing and an end to the gadhafi regime that had murdered so many including hundreds of its fellow citizens. now, we're ratchetting up the pressure on other brutalizers, people who brew babe ruth liz citizens like bashir al asad in syria, while engaging the forces of change in the arab spring and putting america firmly on the side of freedom around the world. we made the g-20 a new fora for international cooperation,
recognizing again the realities of the 21st century. we opened new markets around the world for american businesses. and we've refocused our development policy on building the capacity of other nations on major global health and food security initiatives and steadily, steadily combatting climate change. that's the essence of our record. the question is, where does governor romney stand? how would he keep our citizens safe and our nation secure? in the face of the challenges we now understand are ahead of us, what would governor romney do? well, the truth is we don't know for certain. but we know where the governor starts. he starts with a profound, a profound misunderstanding of the responsibilities of a president and the commander in chief. here's what he said, and i want
to quote him exactly. and i quote -- "if we want someone who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the state department." he went on to say, and i quote, "but that's not how we choose a president. a president is not a foreign policy expert." in my view, the last thing we need is a president who believes that he can subcontract our foreign policy to experts at the state department, and for that matter any other department or agency, because here's how it works. i've been around for eight presidents of the united states. i hate to admit. i know i don't look that old. right? [ laughter ] but eight presidents. that's not how it works. barack obama has built a great national security team from secretary of state clinton to cia director petraeus to defense secretary leon panetta to the chairman of the joint chiefs,
dempsey. president bush put together his own team of experts. but the bottom line is this -- no matter, no matter how experienced the team, no matter how wise the advice and counsel, to use that old expression, "the buck literally stops on the president's desk in the oval office. one of the toughest -- only the toughest decisions land on that desk. and as often as not, his advisers are in disagreement, disagreement among themselves, all smart people, but they disagree, seldom completely unified. as i know the general's heard me say before, i cannot think of any consequential decision in the eight presidents i've served with where the president had more than 75% of the facts. it never works that way.
almost every significant case, it calls for a final judgment call to be made by the president, a call that the vice president can't make, the secretary of state can't make, the secretary of defense can't make, only the president can make. i know from experience. i literally get to be the last guy in the room with the president. that's our arrangement. i can give him all the advice that i have and make my case, but i walk out of the room. he sits there by himself. the president sits there by himself and has to make the decision. often, often reconciling conflicting judgments that are made by very smart, honorable, informed, experienced people. the president is all alone at that moment. it's his judgment that will determine the destiny of this country. he must make the hard calls.
i'd respectfully suggest president obama has made those hard calls with strength and steadiness. and the reason he's been able to is because he had clear goals and clear strategy how to achieve those goals. he had a clear vision and has a clear vision for america's place in the world. he seeks all the help he can get from experts in realizing that vision, but ultimately he makes the decision. so it seems to me that governor romney's fundamental thinking about role of the president in foreign policy is fundamentally wrong. that may work -- that may work -- that kind of thinking may work for a ceo. but i assure you it will not and cannot work for a president and it will not work for a commander in chief. thus far, governor romney has not made many foreign
policy-focused decisions or pronouncements. foreign policy has not been a focus of his campaign. if you'll excuse me a point of personal privilege, given president obama's record, the strongest foreign policy in decades, i can understand why the president -- why governor romney doesn't want to make it the focus of his campaign. but it is. these are critical issues. so how do we fairly assess the views of governor romney on foreign policy? what are they? i think a fair way to do this -- and obviously others may disagree with whether i'm being as objective as possible -- i think the fair way to do this is look at the few things that we do know about governor romney. we know governor romney reflexively criticizes the president's policy and almost in every case without offering any specific alternative. we know that when a governor goes -- does venture a position,
it's a safe bet that he previously took or is about to take an exactly opposite position and an equally safe bet that he's going to end up landing in the wrong place and out of the mainstream, the thinking of republican and democratic foreign policy experts. we know that when he agrees with the president of the united states, as he has done, he then goes on to mischaracterize our record to create what is a nonexistent contrast. and most importantly, we know that the extent that governor romney has shown any foreign policy vision is through the glass of a rear-view mirror. look, in my view, he would take us back to a dangerous and discredited policies that would make america less safe and america less secure. and the best way to try to make the points i believe are earnest to make is to illustrate these
propositions, is to compare president obama's record and governor romney's rhetoric on major foreign policy and the national security issues of our day. let's start with iraq. when president obama ran four years ago, he promised to end the war responsibly. he gave me the honor of responsibility of coordinating that policy. he kept his commitment. he brought home, as already mentioned, all 150,000 of our troops and developed a strong relationship with a sovereign iraq. last december, governor romney initially applauded the withdrawal, which he went on to say, partially which is true, went on to say the credit should go to president bush. but he applauded the decision. three months later, he reversed him, saying, and i quote, it was an enormous error, end of quote.
i can act this up. and saying that he would have left tens of thousands of u.s. troops behind in iraq. in afghanistan, president obama developed a clear strategy to end the war in 2014 while building the capacity of the afghan government, its security forces, and its people. setting a withdrawal date was the best way to get the afghans to step up and take responsibility for their own country. without it we know from iraq it doesn't happen. if we're doing it all, why step up? so we know, we know, unless you set a date the likelihood of stepping up and taking on the responsibility is unlikely to cur. folks, as i've said in many circumstances, we cannot want peace and security in afghanistan more than the afghans want it.
our nato partners, international assistance security forces, some 50 countries, embraced the president's strategy, and so did governor romney embrace the president's strategy, at least at first. he endorsed the president's plan to transition, to transition to afghanistan responsibility and withdraw our combat troops in 0 2014. here's what he said, and i quote, "that's the right time line." but two months later, he was against the president's plan, calling it "one of the biggest mistakes." and now -- and i want to be completely straight about this -- he seems, i emphasize seems, to want to keep american forces in afghanistan indefinitely. here again i want to quote him. and i quote, "it's my desire and my political party's desire not to leave."
i'm not sure the exact context. i'm not sure exactly what he meant. but i am sure he's going to have a responsibility to explain to the american people what he meant by that. he may have a reasonable explanation. but the american people deserve an explanation. where governor romney has expressed a clear and consistent point of view he's been clearly and consistently stuck in the past. and in my view and the president's view, i might add wrong. when we came to office, president obama reset a relationship with russia. to state the obvious, we had then, we have now, important disagreements with moscow, and we're going to continue to have disagreements with moscow. but in the wake of the reset, as we called it, when i was asked to go over and make that first speech on behalf of the administration over in a conference, in the wake of that
reset, we've negotiated a major nuclear arms reduction treaty that has made us safer and sets an example, i might add, for the rest of the world for the possibility we can continue to reduce nuclear arms around the world. in addition, president obama convinced russia to cancel the sale of russia's very sophisticated s-300 cutting-edge air defense radar system to iran. russia joined the united states, hadn't been till then, joined the united states in the toughest ever sanctions against iran, gave us permission to transit russian territory and air space with weapons and supplies for american troops in afghanistan. the only other source and now the sole source but hopefully only temporarily. but just a month ago, governor romney called -- and here again i quote -- "without question our
number-one geopolitical foe is russia." as my brother would say, "go figure." and sometimes, i don't know if it's a slip of the tongue or a mind-set, but he even refers to russia as the soviets, which i think -- no, i think reveals a mind-set. everybody sometimes slips. i never do, but everybody sometimes slips. [ laughter ] look, i think it's fair to say when it comes to russia, based on only what we know he's said so far, governor romney is mired in a cold war mind-set. similarly, the governor aggressively attacked new start, the nuclear arms control treaty that president obama negotiated with moscow. he attacked it.
that treaty reduces the number of strategic nuclear weapons in russia's arsenal and allows inspection of russia's nuclear arsenals to resume without placing any constraints on u.s. missile defense and our conventional strike capabilities. governor romney was part of a very small group of cold war holdovers who never met an arms control treaty he didn't like. he was way out of the mainstream on this issue. unless you think that's just political hyperbole, let me tell you why. virtually the entire republican foreign policy establishment disagreed with him, starting with secretary henry kissinger, secretary colin powell, senator richard lugar, the most informed person in foreign policy in the senate, national security advisor steven hadley, secretary of state jim baker, secretary of state george schulz, national security advisor brent
scowcroft, and president george l.w. bush. all, all supported and strongly supported and helped us get past through some recalcitrant republican senators this critically important treaty. unfortunately, governor romney's apparent determination to take u.s. relations -- u.s./russian relations back to the '50s also causes him to misstate the facts. for example, he charged that, as he calls it, to appease moscow, to appease moscow, "president obama has been pliant on missile defense and abandoned our missile defense sites in poland." here again, he's either woefully misinformed or totally misunderstands. as it happens, president obama asked me to secure allied
support for a new and more effective missile defense system in europe, the so-called phased adaptive approach. so the first visit i made was to poland. and who did we ask to host these new components for this more sophisticated system? that's right. poland along with turkey, romania, germany, and spain, who all said yes. these countries and all of nato embraced our new approach because they understand it will protect them more quickly and more effectively than the missile defense program romney wanted to stick with. and i'd add parenthetically it also provides better protection for the united states of america. as then secretary of defense robert gates who served in
republican and democratic administrations, said, "we are strengthening, not scrapping missile defense in europe." i think nothing speaks more powerfully to the differences between president obama and governor romney than one of the defining moments in the past four years, the hunt for osama bin laden. in 2008, while campaigns for the nomination, governor romney was asked what he would do about bin laden. let me tell you exactly what he said, and i quote. he said, "there would be very insignificant increase in safety" and then he went on to say, "if bin laden was brought to justice." he then went on -- that's a quote. he then went on to say, "it's not worth moving heaven and
earth, spending billions of dollars just to catch one person." here's how candidate obama answered that question. he said, "if i had bin laden in our sights, i will take him out. i will kill bin laden. we will crush al qaeda. this has to be our biggest national security priority." i was a little bit more direct. i said we'd follow the s.o.b. to the gates of hell if we had to. [ applause ] but here's the deal. president obama always means what he says. he said it as a candidate. and he kept that commitment. just a few months in to office, sitting in the oval office -- and i spend four to six hours a day with this president. that's why we've become such good friends and i've gotten to
know him so well, literally, in almost every meeting he has. we're sitting in a meeting, and he turns to leon panetta, who was then director of cia and military personnel there, and he made it clear what his priority was. and on june 2nd, 2009, he ordered leon panetta -- gave the following written order, and i quote. "in order to ensure that we have expended every effort, i direct you to provide me within 30 days a detailed operational plan for locating and bringing to justice osama bin laden." it was the president's highest priority for the cia. then he made one of the most courageous decisions i've seen the president make in my lifetime and i would argue in a long time. he authorized a very high-risk
mission to capture or kill osama bin laden even though -- and i was one of six people who for four months or so were the only one who is knew about the possibility of his location -- even though at the end of the day there was no better, as you know, general, than a 50/50 chance bin laden was present in the compound. but despite that reservation, and i might add the rezer vagss of almost every one of his -- the only full-throated support for moving when we did was from leon panetta, the director of cia, myself included. president obama said afterwards when he made the decision, this was a very difficult decision. it entailed enormous risk to the guys i sent there, but ultimately i had so much confidence in the capacity of our guys to carry out the
mission that i felt the risks were outweighed by the potential benefit to us of finally getting our man." and i might add parenthetically, does anybody doubt had the mission failed it would have written the beginning of the end of the president's term in office. this guy's got a backbone like a ramrod. for real. for real. on this gut issue, we know what president obama did. we can't say for certain what governor romney would have done. but we can say that unlike governor romney the american people believe, and i quote, "it was worth moving heaven and earth to get bin laden." i said before, thanks to president obama, bin laden is dead and general motors is alive.
you have to ask yourself, had governor romney been present, could he have used the same slogan in reverse? people are going to make that judgment. it's a legitimate thing to speculate on. look, on a few core issues, there's no real difference between president obama and governor romney. so in those cases, as i said at the outset, in my view, governor romney misrepresents the president's approach and suged the president is not doing the things that, in fact, he's already doing. again, let me give you some examples. iran's flanuclear program is ma the clearest example. president obama is determined to stop iran from getting a nuclear weapon. he's been clear and concise saying that containment is not our policy. when he took office, the effort
to pressure iran was stuck in neutral. iran's influence -- and think about this, when we took office, iran's influence was spreading in the region and american leadership was in doubt. i would argue we're not much respected by our friends and not really feared by our enemies. but president obama understood that by seeking to engage iran in the first interest, by going the extra diplomatic mile and presenting iran a clear choice, we would demonstrate to the world that iran, not the united states, was the problem. the president's smart, tough diplomacy turned the tables on tehran and secured the strongest unilateral and international sanctions in history. all the major powers, including russia and china, participated. now, iran is more isolated and
the international community is more united in their effort to prevent iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon than ever before. tehran has deep difficulties acquiring equipment and technology for its nuclear missile -- nuclear and missile program. it's increasingly cut off financial system, unable to do the most basic financial transangsts as their economy has been grievously wounded. and the worst is still to come. in june a european embargo on imports of oil kicks in. folks, look, as a result of this unprecedented pressure, iran is back to the negotiating table. it can't predict what the end result will be, but they're back to the table. governor romney has called for what he calls a, quote, very different policy, end of quote, on iran. but for the life of me, it's hard to understand what the governor means by a "very
different policy." here's what he says. he says we need "krcrippling sanctions." apparently unaware that through president obama's leadership we've produced just that, crippling sanctions. the emphasizes need for "a credible military option" and "a regular presence of aircraft carrier groups" in the region. apparently ignorant of the fact that's exactly what our policy is and what we're doing. the only step -- i think it's fair to say, the only stem we could take that we aren't already taking is is to launch a war against iran. that's what governor romney means by a very different policy, he should tell the american people. he should say so. otherwise the governor's tough talk about military action is
just that -- talk. and i would add counterproductive talk. folks, loose talk about a war has incredible negative consequences in our efforts to end iran's nuclear quest. let me tell you why. because it unsettles world oil markets. it drives up oil prices. when oil prices go up, iran's coffers fill up, undermining the impact of the sanctions that are in existence. this kind of romney talk is just not smart. president obama has said, and i quote, "now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition we've built. now is the time to heed the timeless advice from teddy roosevelt -- speak softly and carry a big stick."
i promise you, the president has a big stick. i promise you. [ laughter ] president obama understands what governor romney apparently doesn't. it is possible, it's indeed necessary for america to be strong and smart, and smart at the same time. look, no country is more concerned about a nuclear iran than israel, and rightly so. and no president since harry truman has done more for israel's security than barack obama. our administration provided record levels of security assistance. we funded what's referred to as the iron dome, a missile defense system that recently intercepted and those rockets coming out of gaza, nearly 80% of the rockets fired from gaza, just a few weeks ago, saving homes, school, hospitals, and the men, women, and children who inhabit them.
we're collaborating right now and have been on longer-range missile defense systems like arrow and david's sling and tying, tying israel into our early warning radar system. the u.s. and israel's top political defense and security intelligence officers are engaged in the most consistent, comprehensive consultations ever. you know this better than anybody, general. together, we're conducting the largest joint military operations in the history of the relationship. and president obama has stood up to what i think is the gravest threat to israel -- the effort of the rest of the world to delegitimize it as a state. and i might add often stood up alone, alone, in fighting the effort to delegitimize them at